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Nokia Ovi Maps - Maps and Features

By James Morris



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One of the much-vaunted advantages Ovi Maps has over Google Navigation or skobbler is that it can be used in offline mode. However, this doesn't come as standard, unless the maps were pre-installed on your phone to begin with by the provider. Instead, you need to install Nokia Ovi Suite on your PC, and then use this to copy the required maps permanently onto your phone. Amazingly, map availability covers a large proportion of the world, including a few South American and African countries, plus Australia, New Zealand and a fair amount of Asia, although detail is sketchy in some of these areas.

You can still access maps for all these regions if you don't install them, but only in online mode as they will be downloaded dynamically each time you access them. Another feature you can't access in offline is the satellite view. It's also worth noting that using Ovi Maps in offline mode won't necessarily save you international roaming charges, as you will also need to turn off A-GPS and network-based positioning assistance, since this polls the network to aid GPS satellite discovery.

However, whilst you can run the app in offline and online modes, using the former reduces your options when searching for a destination. For a start, the list of results this provides will be much shorter and confined to the local area. If you want somewhere outside the local area, you will need to input the street, town, and even the country in your search string.

In contrast, when you use Ovi Maps in online mode, the destination search is unified and keyword based. This may not be a particular revelation compared to Google Maps, but few standalone sat-navs let you look for destinations in such a free-form way. For example, search for our favourite "Wembley" and you'll be offered the geographical middle of that part of London, followed by the Stadium, and then a few other select POIs. Search for an unusual street name and you don't even have to know which city it's in. You can also set up a home location and a list of favourites, browse the map to select a point, or choose from a list of recent destinations.

Unlike Google Maps Navigation, which doesn't have a traditional POI database yet, Ovi Maps lets you look for destinations across the usually array of categories, some of which have sub-categories. As we mentioned before, however, you get the most out of this when a data connection is available, because otherwise the POI search will only include the maps you have pre-installed to the device. POI icons are shown on the map, too, and you can click on these to call up information about them.


August 30, 2010, 2:11 pm

The satnav/turn by turn guidance feature is NOT free.

It is only free for phones bought after a certain time, (can't remember when) but my 6220 Classic came with what was then known as "nokia maps" pre-installed on it. It had a voucher for 3 months free turn by turn satnav, but has expired, and now, despite updating to the latest version of Ovi maps, it demands I pay a subscription fee to enable the satnav feature, which I am disappointed by.


August 30, 2010, 4:12 pm

Ovi Maps is a fantastic freebie, and I particularly like the downloadable maps: For one thing, it's just strangely satisfying to run around with the maps for all of Europe in my pocket. And of course, it does make using the device abroad very affordable. A-GPS leads to roaming charges, but we're talking about kilobytes and consequently Cents, not Euros. For the anal-retentive, A-GPS can be disabled leaving you with a completely free but more sluggish satnav.

Of course, Nokia wouldn't be Nokia if they didn't severely hamstring an offer that looks great on paper with their UI magic. For instance, try looking up a route which does not start at your current position. It's possible, but it's really well hidden. And if you do manage that, you'll find that the result is presented in an entirely unhelpful manner, leaving you to skip through the computed route in single steps with free scrolling in the map disabled. FWIW, I don't know if any of the other satnavs is better in this specific regard. Small things like that abound; if a street name is too long for the display it gets abbreviated with "...". Rotate the screen, and there's twice as much room for the name, only it's not used. One reason for those problems is probably the breadth of devices that Ovi is supposed to be available for: everything from relatively small, slow screen cell phones to faster (or not), larger touchscreen smartphones.

BTW: The standard semi-3D satnav view is just one of several useful perspectives available. During navigation, you can swipe left and right to switch between them. There's a 2D overhead view, a non-graphic view with a larger icon and an overview mode. In some but possibly not all modes, swiping up and down skips forward to upcoming route points. As far as I know, this feature isn't hinted at anywhere in the interface, I stumpled on it by chance, more impatient people may have more luck with the manual.


August 30, 2010, 4:52 pm

Apologies for going O/T, but what's up with the RSS feed these days? This (and every other story) are appearing twice in my RSS feed, at different times.


August 30, 2010, 4:58 pm

I use OVI maps constantly on an E72 in my country (Malta), and it works fabulously. It's fast at acquiring GPS lock, responsive, and with excellent voice guidance. It doesn't get me right in front of the destination point (i.e. the actual door number), but always manages to find the street I'm looking for. That's more than I can say for the Garmin Mobile XT application I used prior to OVI maps, for which I'd paid a premium just for the software and map, only to see updates and support being discontinued. The digital compass support on my E72 is another big plus when walking through the narrow intertwined streets of some old cities in my country.


August 30, 2010, 5:43 pm

The Nokia navigation software is excellent to use. Sometimes takes a while to find a satellite and occasionally goes crazy and tries to make you do things like U-turn when you're not allowed to or tell you you've arrived at a destination, when you're actually in the wrong street, parallel to your destination.

This would have been a major selling point for Nokia, but I've found Google Navigation to be just as promising and not hampered to the handset.


August 30, 2010, 7:19 pm

There is also the ongoing issue that Nokia have failed to provide the full functionality on the N900 - there is no certainity that the full functionality will be available on the N9 (or whatever will run Meego).


August 30, 2010, 8:16 pm

A small niggle, it doesn't seem to offer speed, oops! "safety" camera info.

That particular location view of Tower Bridge pulls in millions of quids utilising a needless 20mph limit using average speed technology.

I'm not bitter, , , much.

Digital Fury

August 30, 2010, 8:19 pm

Hope it's better on other Nokia models, but I used it on a N900 and it was dreadful, both in terms of functionality and speed.


August 30, 2010, 9:57 pm

I find it a bit surprising that most of you seem to fail to make distinction between software and hardware: locking on your position is certainly a question of quality of the GPS receiver, not Ovi Maps itself, and will differ from model to model.


August 30, 2010, 10:07 pm

@Digital Fury. The N900 Maps software is something completely different to this. I'd love for it be on the N900. I almost bought the Sygic one, but got a free Garmin with my screwfix order. Which isn't that good. Nokia did have Satnav software for Maemo on the old N800, which was fantastic, so it's a bit odd that they haven't ported it to Maemo 5.


August 31, 2010, 12:38 am

@ theDman - i saw the same thing on a Nokia N95 8GB - turned out it just needed a complete reload of ALL maps and associated features once you had updated to the latest version of Ovi maps.. Give that a go and lets us know - Nokia claim it is completely free (once available for that device) on all compatible devices that have ever supported Nokia Maps or Ovi Maps..


August 31, 2010, 12:41 am

@digital fury

I have used Nokia maps on other Nokia's and the N900. Million of miles apart. On the n900 it's still feels like Alpha stage not even Beta.


August 31, 2010, 1:00 am

I use this on my X6. It's one of the few apps that's actually useful - not that that's unique to Nokia as most apps, regardless of platform, are pointless.

It's free, works offline (great when you're abroad) and pretty up to date. As for speed cameras, it picks up the ones on the M9 and the A1 near Edinburgh. Also you can use your own voice as well as the pre-sets - I have Surfer Dude just now.

"Speed camera ahead, Dude! Slow down or say cheese!".


August 31, 2010, 2:02 am

been using Nokia maps for about 3 years now, previous incarnation on a navigator phone, now on a N97 mini,. Superb, never had a problem, and i have used both phones abroad on a motorbike. Yes there may be faults, but its free(relatively)and updates are on going, excellent, to be recommended


August 31, 2010, 2:16 am

@Digital Fury & @AlmostDone. Unfortunately the version of Ovi Maps on the N900 is not at the same level as that available on the Symbian devices. Hopefully Nokia will port the Symbian version to QT and this will make it available on the N900.


August 31, 2010, 1:54 pm

I really needed to depend upon Ovi maps on my E52 the other day and it really let me down. I'm a fan of Nokia's free satnav software but for some reason every single time I typed in anything in the search box all it wanted to do was go online. Which was useless as I was in the back end of nowhere without any signal at all.

I had all the maps recently downloaded to the phone and the software was all up to date. I thought that one of the major advantages of having maps on the phone was so you could look up destinations by name without a data connection? It also refused to accept UK postcodes as a destination unless it could get online. The GPS receiver had a clear strong signal and new my location so I have no idea why it was so useless.

Back to the old TomTom Go!


August 31, 2010, 5:59 pm

@ lifethroughalens:

how wierd? mine does full UK postcodes when offline, mine's not a E52 though, though I can't see why that would make any difference :S

Luan Bach

August 31, 2010, 6:41 pm

Has been working great for me in off-line mode on the E71, 5800, N97 and the N8. On the 5800 I've found that I needed to have the SIM in for it to get a position fix.


September 1, 2010, 10:21 pm

Ovi needs work, ALOT of work, it has to be the worst menu system i have ever dealt with, to a degree that i handed back the nokia work phone and got a HTC with android instead!.


September 2, 2010, 1:53 am

@ Jay - I don't know what's up with my E52. Every time I put anything in the search bar of the Ovi Maps program all it does is immediately go to 'Searching online'. And if I'm not online then I don't get any results at all. Weird, wasn't that way on my E90.


September 3, 2010, 10:57 pm

For a few years I used Ovi maps on a Nokia 6300, which of course has no GPS (and I never thought buying a separate GPS dongle was worth it) - so does only as an electronic city map. I only used this travelling on business in Asia (where my BlackBerry is perfect for email but roaming charges are just too much for heavy data like map downloads) and it worked well on pre-downloaded maps of the cities I was visiting. I usually juggle 6 or 7 Asian SIM cards on these trips for local calls.

Last week I saw that Carphonewarehouse was selling the Nokia 5230 Nav for £69 (effectively unlocked of course being from that store). It's a great phone for the price (except the screen is truly awful in sunlight) and gives me a fuller load of Ovi maps and navigation than possible with the 6300. Testing here in UK I am impressed and it's hard to see how it fares better than my TomTom. I will try it out in Shanghai next week, with local SIM card and see how it performs.

Well done Nokia for providing such a good value-add product for free.

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